Close game helps ratings
After a year of decline, total viewership numbers for the Super Bowl were back on the upswing, achieving the highest total numbers in years.
The game pitted the Cincinnati Bengals – their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years – against the Los Angeles Rams, who moved back to California in 2016 after 21 years in St. Louis. Led by former Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stratford and with a superb fourth quarter comeback, the Rams won 23-20 over the Bengals, their first championship since 2000 and their first overall in the Los Angeles area. It marked the second straight year a home team was able to play in their own stadium as Super Bowl LVI was held in SoFi stadium in nearby suburban Inglewood – home to the Rams since 2020. It was indeed the “Rams House”.
When you add up all the numbers from linear and streaming, Super Bowl LVI drew a total of 112.3 million viewers– far higher than the 101.5 million the person writing this predicted. This marks the highest number total since Super Bowl LI, when Patriots-Falcons drew 113.7 million viewers (adjusted up from 111.3 million) for Fox. The total viewership numbers were up tremendously from last year’s Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl on CBS, which drew 96.4 million viewers across all platforms, though CBS didn’t have a separate Spanish-language channel carrying the game.
But when you split the platforms, a different story is told: among linear TV households, the game drew 99.18 viewers for NBC (up 4 percent from last year’s Super Bowl) and 1.91 million for sister Spanish-language network Telemundo for a grand total of 101.1 million eyeballs. In terms of actual ratings, Super Bowl LVI earned a 36.9 household rating – the lowest since Super Bowl III when the New York Jets’ Joe Namath upset the Baltimore Colts. Last year’s game earned a 38.2.
Among the 44 markets measured for overnight household ratings, Cincinnati’s WLWT topped them all with a 46.1 rating and 84 share. The interest over Stafford fueled Detroit’s WDIV to second place (45.9/79), while among Ohio cities, Columbus placed fourth (WCMH, 45.4/80) and Cleveland – home of the archrival Browns, placed in a tie for sixth (WKYC, 44.0/78).
Due to the complex size of the Los Angeles market – the second largest in the nation – Los Angeles placed outside of the top ten in terms of ratings, but NBC-owned KNBC still pulled in a 36.7/77, ranking in the top ten in terms of share.
Chicago also ranked out of the top ten, but exact ratings for the game were not available, and neither were demo breakdowns.
What pushed the numbers to 112.3 million was streaming. According to NBC, Super Bowl LVI was the most streamed ever, drawing 11.2 million viewers to Peacock, Yahoo! Sports, and other platforms who had the game. Obviously, the streaming numbers put a strain on linear ratings, but this is the way many viewers watch their programming now.
The well-received halftime show, featuring hip-hop legends Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem and others, drew 103.4 million viewers in the 7:15 p.m.-7:30 p.m. CT time frame, up from 96.7 million viewers from last year’s headliner, The Weeknd.
While the 112.3 million is tremendous, it still trails the 114.4 million viewers Super Bowl XLIX drew in 2015 between the Patriots and the Seahawks, the most-watched program of all-time, fueled by a blizzard that kept people at home in the Midwest including Chicago. Also keep in mind there has been changes in Nielsen meteorology in the last year or so, adding out-of-home viewing to the totals.
NBC did not air any post-entertainment Super Bowl programming this year, as the network returned to Winter Olympics coverage.